Dental Implant FAQ
Why should I replace a missing tooth with an implant? Here are some useful answers to this question:
Without an implant to replace missing teeth, the bone will dissolve and weaken.
We’ve all seen a person who has become unable to use a particular part of their body. Think of a person who is confined to a wheelchair or a stroke victim who has lost the use of one of their arms. What happens to the limb that is not being used? It becomes smaller and weaker, the muscles shrink, the bone becomes smaller and more brittle while the other body parts remain big and strong.
This condition is known as disuse atrophy. When you lose a tooth, it is important to replace the missing tooth with a dental implant as soon as possible. Studies show that within the very first year after tooth loss, the bone can dissolve by up to 50% Placing an implant as soon as possible will help the bone remain strong. Atrophy can happen to both muscles and bone without a dental implant, which can result in changes to facial shape and structure as well as reduced lip support.
Dental implants transmit the forces of chewing into the jaw bone. This stimulates cells in the body to build strong bone around the dental implant. Even if you get a dental implant and don’t put a tooth on it for a while, the bone around the dental implant will be stabilized much more than if the space is simply left vacant and a dental implant is not placed. It is always, always better to get a dental implant to replace missing teeth as soon as possible following extraction.
Click here to see Dr Craig talk more about what happens to the jaw bones when dental implants are delayed.
Implants help keep the remaining teeth from wearing out too quickly.
Imagine you’re on a team at work consisting of 16 people. It’s a busy job and everyone has a role to play. Suddenly, the boss fires 4 people and doesn’t replace them, but the work load remains the same. What will happen to the remaining 12 people? Likely, they will get worn out, they will be grumpy and they may even quit.
This is a perfect analogy for what happens when we lose teeth and need to replace those missing teeth with dental implants. Not counting our wisdom teeth, we have 16 teeth designed to do all of our chewing. For every tooth that is lost and not replaced with a dental implant, you effectively lose the chewing capacity of not just that tooth but also the one opposing it. So having 2 teeth pulled and not replacing them with a dental implant results in the loss of chewing power for 4 teeth! Just like a team of people that is overworked, tired and stressed, your teeth will wear out much sooner if the chewing power is not restored with dental implants. Worn out teeth will “quit” prematurely, meaning they will fail and may need to be extracted, too.
Consider this x-ray of a mouth that’s missing 7 chewing teeth. Because of where the teeth are positioned, this patient only has 6 teeth that can be used to chew!
Teeth that are overworked and not supported by dental implants to replace the missing teeth are more susceptible to wear, to cracks, to fracture and even sometimes to decay. Dental implants can help prevent a multitude of expensive problems down the road.
As you can see, this is a giant domino effect. Often times when a patient loses one tooth and they opt not to have a dental implant placed, they think it’s not a big deal. Then the second tooth is lost and again, no dental implant is placed. Unfortunately, at this point teeth start to wear out VERY quickly, and the rate of tooth loss goes up dramatically. It’s amazing how quickly a patient can go from simply missing 2 teeth to suddenly missing all of them. It happens faster than you think!
This problem can be resolved by replacing missing teeth with dental implants early. It’s never going to be more affordable than it is today. Keep your teeth healthy over the long term by replacing missing teeth with dental implants for a lifetime of function and beauty!
Appropriate spacing is maintained with implants.
“Who cares about the spacing or crowding in teeth if nobody can see back there anyway?” This is a question that has been asked by thousands of patients. The answer is that spacing and crowding is about way more than just cosmetics!
Our teeth are designed to have specific spacing (or lack of spacing) between them. When a tooth is missing, it needs to be replaced by a dental implant so that the spacing can be maintained. Failing to replace a missing tooth with a dental implant causes the surrounding teeth to “tip” into the missing space.
Consider this x-ray:
See how the second to the last two teeth on the bottom are diagonal? These teeth used to be straight! When the patient had a tooth pulled, the missing tooth should have been replaced by a dental implant. It was not replaced with a dental implant, so the back teeth have tipped forward in an unhealthy way into that space.
Teeth are designed to receive chewing forces within the long axis of the tooth. When a tooth is tipped, the bite force is diagonal to the tooth. This causes excessive bone loss and can lead to tooth fracture.
When this happens, the tipped teeth also need to be extracted and the patient is left with multiple missing teeth. This leads to accelerated tooth loss elsewhere in the mouth and can be extraordinarily expensive to fix. Dental implants, when done immediately, are far less costly than when dental implants are delayed. It’s important to use dental implants to maintain the appropriate spacing between teeth so that additional problems can be avoided in the future.
Implants can help keep your TMJ healthy.
Everyone has a TMJ. The TMJ is the jaw joint. When someone complains of pain in this area, often you will hear them say, “I have TMJ.” What the patient really means is they have TMD. TMD is the disorder that can cause joint pain.
A typical joint consists of the lower jaw, the base of the skull, and a cartilage disc along with some fluid to act as a shock absorber. The joint is located just in front of the ear canal. This is why sometimes, when the disc pops or clicks, it can sound very loud to a patient—because it is in such close proximity to their eardrum.
TMD can be caused by missing teeth, especially when those teeth have not been replaced by something such as a dental implant. While it’s not appropriate to say that dental implants directly cause TMD to improve or that dental implants can, with 100% certainty cure TMD, missing teeth that are not replaced by dental implants can lead to bone loss and an imbalanced bite where one side is higher than the other.
In this case, every time a patient chews, the jaw is forced up higher on one side, jamming the jaw bone into the joint in an unhealthy way. This can lead to inflammation, pain, difficulty sleeping and pain when eating.
Unfortunately, once TMJ problems arise, it is exceedingly difficult and unpredictable to treat. It’s not uncommon for a patient to forego dental implants to replace missing teeth only to end up with TMJ problems down the road. The treatments sometimes don’t work, and the joint may never achieve full health again. Chronic pain is not uncommon in patients with TMJ disorders.
By keeping the bite balanced with dental implants wherever there are missing teeth, TMJ problems are much less frequent and much less severe. It just makes sense to have a dental implant placed to restore a missing tooth now and hopefully avoid TMJ problems that can be caused by delaying dental implant treatment.
Affordable implants are today’s treatment.
If you've clicked through some of the other reasons that dental implants are so important to replace missing teeth, you’ll notice that a common theme has emerged. The common theme is that, while dental implants can be expensive, dental implants are much more affordable than what happens as an alternative.
Dental implants are not cheap, and they’re not getting any cheaper. With any new technology, the price starts off extremely high and then decreases to a point where it is at its lowest. Then, over time the technology gradually increases in cost. I still remember when I saw my very first flat screen TV on the wall at Best Buy so many years ago. It was a 21 inch screen and the price tag was $10,000! The cost of flat screen TVs came down considerably over the ensuing years, even though the technology got much more advanced. The cost of a good flat screen TV bottomed out a few years ago, and the costs have been steadily increasing ever since.
Just like with flat screen TVs and other technology, dental implants started off astronomically expensive. The cost of a dental implant decreased over time and bottomed out sometime around 2011. The cost of dental implants has been increasing every year since that time. It’s true that you can still buy a cheap dental implant, but often times these dental implant companies do not have a proven track record, and we’ve seen far too often cheap dental implant companies going out of business. When this happens, the connectors and parts needed to restore the dental implant into a functioning tooth are no longer available and the patient has to go through the painful process of having the dental implant removed and replaced with a brand that is better known.
At Summerbrook, we only use the highest quality dental implants with a proven track record. We try to make our prices such that affordable dental implants are possible for each patient, but we know that dental implants are still expensive. However, the cost is only going up year after year, and the complications that can come from delaying dental implant therapy are usually much more expensive, much more time consuming and much less comfortable.
The cost of dental implant therapy is cheaper today than it ever will be in the future, especially if complications develop over time.